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My Climate View: online tool allows Australian farmers to project changes out to 2070
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My Climate View: online tool allows Australian farmers to project changes out to 2070

In 30 years, Vicki Mayne’s Queensland beef property will receive 30 more days of heatwaves a year.

“That pushes us to 163 days of the year,” she said.

The prediction comes from an online tool developed by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, called My Climate View. The tool provides farmers with long-term climate projections out to 2070.

Farmers such as Mayne can plug in their farm’s location and the commodity they produce, and receive information that can help them better understand the impact of global heating on their livelihood.

A study analysing the usefulness of the tool to farmers was published in the Nature Climate Change journal this month. It measured how 24 Australian farmers perceived the risk of global heating on their operation before and after using the software.

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Whether the projections are of use to farmers or “are they only the dream of scientists” was the central question in the mind of lead author Dr Yuwan Malakar.

“People talk about climate change being a distant phenomenon,” he said. “Because it’s something happening in the future, we don’t need to act on it, they say.”

By localising climate projections, the study found, farmers were able to better understand future climate risks, potentially reducing their “physiological distance” from global heating, Malakar said.

One farmer surveyed was planning on expanding his avocado operations but, after using the software, Malakar said, he decided to consider changing his crop altogether. “That’s the beauty of it,” he said.

Another farmer from Tasmanian was fearful of cold snaps damaging their crop but said the software’s projection of fewer and less intense frosts in the region as the planet warms had eased that concern.

The financial implications of a changing climate are already being felt. A 2019 report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences found the annual profit of Australian farms had decreased by 22% on average in the past two decades due to global heating.

The program was funded by the Future Drought Fund. This month the government announced an additional $519m for the fund and said it would be restructured to better reflect global heating’s threat to Australian agriculture.

Peter Holding, an outreach officer for Farmers for Climate Action who runs a mixed sheep and cropping farm outside Young, New South Wales, said farmers were aware becoming of the challenges caused by a warming climate.

“Many farmers are recognising climate change, they are concerned about the extremes that are happening … more intense storms, more floods, more fires,” he said.

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He said that farmers had already adapted to significant changes in technology and farming practices “but I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep up with the impacts of climate change”.

The president of the National Farmers’ Federation, David Jockhinke, said he welcomed any tool that would help farmers understand and adapt to a changing climate.

“In recent years the climate pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other and this isn’t expected to slow down,” Jockhinke said.

“We know the more farmers can prepare, the better they can mitigate the hit to food production and their bottom line.”

One cropping and livestock farmer surveyed in the study said: “I don’t think there’s much more we could do to plan for that increase in heat. We’ve done all we can already.”

A sugar cane farmer, also included in the study, was more pragmatic. “We’ve just got to harvest when we can, and stop when we can’t.”

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Source: theguardian.com